Letterhole Diary – August 2018

Welcome to the August edition of the 'Letterhole Diaries', for all the thoughts and stories that aren't worth a full blog post, and a summary of some of the month's biggest events.

The football season has begun again! We’ve been on the road this month, watching Notts County play out a 0-0 draw with Colchester on the opening day, and Millwall beat Frank Lampard’s Derby Country 2-1 two weeks later.  Millwall’s fans are certainly something to experience, as anyone who’s made the trip to The Den will tell you: their ire was typically reserved for Frank Lampard – a scion of West Ham and someone who ‘let [his] country down.

One thing that struck me, though, is the advanced age (and weight) of much of the Millwall support. There was a worrying lack of young people and children within the crowd, which might spell trouble for the club down the road. Millwall desperately needs to make The Den a more welcoming, family-friendly place if it’s to survive in this more sanitised era.

This coming month, Manchester City vs. Fulham and Fulham vs. Watford are on the agenda for Letterhole.

There’s been an outpouring of grief in the United States this month, with the death of John McCain, long-time Arizona senator, former Vietnam POW and 2008 candidate for the presidency. Much of the eulogy has focused on his willingness to work across party lines, his apparent decency and sincerity, and his ‘heroic’ military career. Obviously there has been pushback: he was, after all, a staunch conservative who worked against fair taxes, universal healthcare, and the fight against climate change.

Although McCain was a decent, sincere man and a devoted public servant, he does shoulder some of the blame for the rise of Trump. By promoting the thoroughly unqualified Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate, he gave the populist right the legitimacy it needed to begin its takeover of the Republican Party. John McCain has been a fierce, unwavering critic of Donald Trump, but without him, it’s likely he would never have been president.

Tweet of the month

It’s become the received wisdom that if any country is immune to the populist surge, it’s Canada. After all, their prime minister is a champion of openness and tolerance, defending those principles against conservatives within and Donald Trumps without. But Justin Trudeau has also come under fire; his visible support for Syrian refugees has bolstered attempts at nationalist scaremongering, and a handful of Islamist terror attacks have been spun into evidence of a society in retreat.

So far, mainstream political parties have been unable – or unwilling – to capitalise n this mood. That is until this month, when Maxime Bernier, a Conservative MP and one-time leadership contender, announced his resignation from the party. His intention is to form a new political grouping, one that encompasses libertarian and right-wing populist ideals. Bernier, a relatively popular and well-known MP, can easily fill this niche. Speculative polls suggest that his new party could gain as much as 13% of the vote at next year’s general election.

The trouble for the Canadian right is Bernier will only really take votes away from the Conservative Party; the split risks returning the centre-right to the doldrums of the 1990s. This might make it easier for Trudeau’s Liberals to win the next election – despite everything, the prime minister remains personally popular, and his party is polling high. All we can say is that there is room in Canada for right-wing populism after all.

Essential reading

1 Aug At the beginning of the month, the entire New York Times Magazine was devoted to one of the most depressing stories you’ll ever read: the decade we almost stopped climate change, as told by Nathaniel Rich.

6 Aug In the Irish Times, Matthew O’Toole tells us why Northern Irish Unionists have put their future as part of the United Kingdom at risk through their support for Brexit.

8 Aug Shaun O’Dwyer writes about the ‘incoherent, divisive dogma of cultural appropriation’ for the Japan Times, and why most Japanese people will be delighted if you want to wear a kimono.

22 Aug The UK’s premier political writer, Stephen Bush, writes in his New Statesman column about the inevitability of a split within the Labour Party. The only question is: when?

22 Aug For all the talk of Idris Elba, Martha Gill suggests in The Guardian that it might just be time to retire James Bond, a character totally unfit for the twenty-first century.

24 Aug Twitter user and PhD student ‘Medieval Indonesia’ makes a compelling case for an understanding of the Middle Ages based on trans-Indian Ocean trade, via Medium.

28 Aug Chapo Trap House is one of the most popular socialist podcasts on the internet. In Politico, Bill Scher shows that their new book proves they know absolutely nothing about their ideology.

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